Ask Julian Edelman what it means to be courted by his hometown team, the San Francisco 49ers, and he won't shy away from acknowledging a childhood fantasy passed up.
"That was like a little dream right there," Edelman said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "Iím not gonna lie. It was very surreal."
The Patriots' top receiver was courted by coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers while on his free agency tour. But he ended up re-signing with New England on a four-year, $17 million deal.
"Itís good to have a little security in knowing that a team believes in you enough to pay you back and stuff," he said. "A little security on how many years Iíll be here. Iíve really never been in that situation. I always felt that if I had a bad practice I could potentially be cut the next day."
The signing process was difficult for Edelman because there was, as he put it, a real possibility that he would not return after having grown fond of the region, his teammates, and coaches. Visiting San Francisco, as a Bay Area native from Redwood City, Calif., his family was inundated with calls about him possibly becoming a 49er.
"I ultimately felt that the best fit for me and my skill set and my career was back in Boston," he said. "That was my home growing up, but like I keep on saying, Foxborough is home."
Asked if he is a full-fledged New Englander now, Edelman took it in stride.
"You know, I spend most of my adult life out [in Boston]. I can tell you right now, I know Boston better than I know San Francisco. I vacation, I go to the Cape more than I go to Lake Tahoe. I guess I am a New Englander when it comes down to it. But itís pretty crazy to think. When you look at it close, I donít know the city of San Francisco that well. I lived 30 miles south. I didnít go to the city that often as an adult. Now in Boston, Iím there three times a week. I guess I would say Iím a New Englander."
And then there's the matter of Tom Brady, his confidant, next-door neighbor in the locker room, and mentor.
"He let it be known that heíd love to have me back and be part of this team," Edelman said, adding "he also told me that Iíd have to take care of myself and my family."
After five seasons working together, the two have become close, Edelman said, crediting Brady with helping him become the professional he is today and mentoring him through the free agency process.
"It would be very tough to leave him because he is my dog."